old-cell-phone.jpgAs the holiday season approaches when shiny, new smartphones are given away as presents, San Francisco police are warning the public about a rising robbery trend.

“I often use the analogy that you wouldn’t walk down the street carrying two, three hundred dollars withdrawn from an ATM,” police Chief Greg Suhr said. “That’s exactly what you’re doing when you’re walking down the street with your smartphone and not paying attention.”

Police estimate that roughly half of all street robberies in the city target cellphones.

“It’s the exception rather than the rule in many of our street robberies that a cellphone is not involved,” Suhr said, although he noted that robberies overall are down in San Francisco compared to last year.

The issue prompted Supervisor Scott Wiener on Tuesday to call for a board committee hearing on the cellphone theft trend.

Wiener said there has been a recent spike in smartphone robberies in the Castro and other neighborhoods in his district.

“We’ve had a string of armed robberies in residential areas in the middle of the day–very scary incidents,” he said.

The committee hearing, which will take place sometime in the coming weeks, will “provide an opportunity for the Police Department to present an overview on its strategies and also to educate the public on what we’re doing and how the public can help protect itself,” Wiener said.

Suhr said police do not want victims to chase after robbers to try to get their property back, especially since many smartphones and tablets are equipped with GPS locators that investigators can use to find the devices.

“We’ve been very successful in tracking them,” the chief said.

“We’ll help you get your phone back.”

Dan McMenamin, Bay City News

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